Book Review: The Poisonwood Bible

by Barbara Kingsolver

In 1959, a family of evangelical Baptists from America relocated to the Belgian Congo on a mission to spread Christianity. Led by Nathan Price, the father of the family, the mother and four children experience the beauty, horror, and undoing of their family, all while the Congo faces its own political turmoil. Nathan Price is a single-minded man, not letting anything get in between him and his dream of setting up a church and baptizing the people of the village where they reside. The people of this village have different views on religion and community than Nathan, yet he is determined to turn them into his way of thinking. He drags the family with him on his mission. This book spans three decades, each with new problems for the family. Told from the perspectives of each of the four children, they give their own insight into the Congo, their father, and their other siblings. Each character has their own voice that you can easily pick up on throughout the writing.

I loved this book because of how Barbara Kingsolver discussed religion, politics, race, and of course, both America and postcolonial Africa through the lens of the Christian Americans. Not only that, but Kingsolver also examined the character’s journeys in understanding more about the people of the Congo. It is a good look into an issue I didn’t know anything about before. We hear from the children as they move away from their preconceived ideas about Christianity and assimilate further into the Congo’s culture. Kingsolver has created a wonderful book full of thought-provoking ideas, characters that you both resent and feel for at the same time, and the misunderstanding from the American standpoint of other cultures, people, and languages that leads to the Poisonwood Bible.

Reviewed by Piper I.

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